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SBD Global/March 22, 2013/Franchises

Businessman Mike Charlesworth Takes Control Of A-League's Central Coast Mariners

Mariners players jump to stop a shot at goal Sunday against Brisbane.
The future of A-League side Central Coast Mariners as a Gosford-based club "is secure after businessman Mike Charlesworth agreed to take majority ownership of the club on Thursday night," according to Sebastian Hassett of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Club Chairs Peter Turnbull and Lyall Gorman "accepted an offer from Charlesworth in an effort to ease the club's well-documented and ongoing financial woes," taking his ownership stake up to 64%. In more good news, the players and staff "who missed their regular monthly payments this week will also be paid in full in the coming days." However, while Charlesworth "will officially take the reins of the Mariners on Friday morning when the paperwork is formally signed," it is also possible he may sell the club again. A Russian consortium, which has been interested in buying the club during the past 18 months "is set to make a final offer in the next week," while another interested owner from China -- who has deep links with Asian football -- "will visit in the next fortnight." It has been speculated that Gorman "has been resistant to sell his shares, listed in his wife's name." Gorman "denies this." He said, "'There was some very poor and ill-informed comment this week that I was a barrier to the sale but it's to the absolute contrary" (SMH, 3/22).

SEALING THE DEAL: In Sydney, Ray Gatt reported that Charlesworth confirmed that "the deal was almost done." He said, "I would expect that 99 percent of it will be signed off in the morning, as soon as the documents are drawn up by the lawyers. It is a positive outcome. I cannot believe that anyone would stop this going ahead at this moment in time. All the major issues have now been sorted and everyone wants to do the deal" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/22). Also in Sydney, Tom Smithies reported the deal means that Turnbull's stake "diminishes once the deal is signed off" Friday morning, while fellow shareholder Gorman -- the Wanderers' executive chairman -- "will exit the club." Turnbull admitted his relief Thursday night "after spending years keeping the Mariners afloat." Turnball said, "Mike, Lyall and I have always placed top priority on the good of the Mariners and Central Coast football" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/22).

FINANCIAL PROBLEMS: ABC NEWS' Michelle Brown reported the drama at the Central Coast is "the latest in a short A-League history hampered by financial insecurity." While int'l marquee players including Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono "have lifted the profile of the game, generating cash for clubs is an ongoing problem." A-League CEO Damien de Bohun said that investment in the A-League "is buying into the world's most popular game and remains an attractive, long-term proposition." De Bohun said, "As a long-term investment, the fundamentals are strong. Major League Soccer in America followed a similar trajectory in its early years, but is now a booming business model" (ABC NEWS, 3/21).
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